A Personal Encounter with Rape Apologists

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I’ll never forget this 16th day of December 2016. I spoke up against a friend’s brother who repeatedly tried to kiss a young womxn on the couch at my gran’s house. Each time he leaned in she recoiled, pushing him away, though never “hard enough nor convincingly enough” and merely mumbled “no, tomorrow”. All the while awkwardly smiling at her friend (his younger sister) in that universal code for “get this creep away from me” without being too obvious that we often exchange at clubs or parties. This boy’s younger and older sister were both sitting on the couch saying nothing. One of my cousins and two other friends were also present and remained mum.

The second time round, I was more persistent. I was met with harsh retorts saying that I should stay out of it and that the girl did not protest. To which I yelled in an escalating frantic frenzy, “Is pushing him away ambiguous? Can’t you all see she’s uncomfortable? What will it take for you to realise she means no? Must she kick and scream? No is no! WHY MUST I STOP TALKING? Because he’s a man? Because he’s drunk? He obviously can’t tell that no is no. Why the fuck are you protecting him? Why did you all sit there like you don’t see her struggling to break away from his grip? How far must he go until you reprimand him, until you take her side? How far?!”

My appeals were met with indignance & were reduced to insinuations that I was a jealous previous lover of the boy or that I wanted that attention for myself. A while later his older sister then conceded that he was in fact wrong but that I had said it rudely and should’ve spoken “properly”.

I erupted in response, “This girl was polite enough and you all ignored her, including him. My rude response was 100 times better than your silence! I wasn’t going to be polite about this nonsense”. And the defence for the accused to be cleared of the disrespectful “nonsense” label was launched.

“He is a man and you should respect him”. “The girl was smiling so she obviously enjoyed it.” “It’s none if your or our business.” “For the sake of peace let’s all be quiet and just have a good time”. “Cousin, you have anger issues” ×20 “This girl is old enough to speak for herself, he wouldn’t do anything to her”…. and on and on and on.

My last words tumbled out of my mouth like alcohol induced retching. “Why do you defend him! Womxn get hurt everyday because you all sit there and let these pigs do as they please and you protect them! I don’t care if she’s old enough, grown womxn don’t get raped?! You all acted like you didn’t see her & you’ll say she was smiling though. And when she gets hurt and you’ll all still be saying “but she was smiling & didn’t say no so she enjoyed it” to protect him. Carry on! Carry on because you’re all such trash!”

So the girl was questioned, aside, by the older sister where she apparently said “she was fine with the guy”. Under immense pressure where her discomfort had been repeatedly overlooked, where I, in her defense, was in the minority, where she would be cast as the false accuser who didn’t protest or complain but “smiled in compliance” & simply played hard to get… she was expected to have been able to say “Yes, I didn’t want him and he was annoying me”. To people who had already made it clear whose side they had taken and would support. She mumbled something which was relayed to me as her concession that “everything was fine”.

Through all of this, I was furious and sad. Furious because the two people who had said close to nothing throughout all of this were the boy and the young womxn he was harassing. His case was staunchly defended by his sisters and friends (all womxn) while he left the house as soon as things got heated.

And I was sad because the girl I was defending had not said anything either. I was angry at myself for taking ownership of that space on her behalf and assuming all the circumstantial factors which made it impossible for her to do so – legitimising my own dominant voice over hers without even consulting her.

Yet, another part of me, in the throes of heated debate, had for a split second considered asking her and decided against it. To further subject someone to explaining what she meant by pulling away and turning her face away from kiss-attempts (reinforcing that as a society NO means MAYBE) was a kind of victim-blaming and humiliation I absolutely refused to part take in. And as I sit typing the last bit of this piece, I’m convinced that my reaction (35min ago) was not liquor-induced and had I the chance to go back – I wouldn’t take back a thing… not my anger, not my tone, not my vulgarity and most certainly not my opinion.

 

On street-violence on the bodies of womxn

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I watched a movie about domestic abuse today and cried.

Before I cried, I scorned the victim for her stupidity and recklessness.

I took part in the culture of victim-blaming because she had stayed with an abusive lover after he beat her again and again.

I blamed her for being stupid enough to believe that he would change, that she could change him and that he needed her to stay so that he could get help.

I was so frustrated that I nearly cried for her daughter for having such a sorry excuse for a mother and cursed the woman who raised her mother to become that way.

I cried because I realised in those last few scenes, the complete helplessness of women all over the world in the same situation, and worse.

I cried because of the inextricable power that men hold over us…in Tabuk, in Brooklyn, in New Delhi, in Moscow, in Kigali, in Las Vegas, in Johannesburg…

I cried because for all my radical feminism’s worth, earlier that day, as I walked alone through the streets of Johannesburg in a mini skirt, I was equally powerless.

For all my notions of equality and ‘feminism for men’ that I believe in, I was paralysed by the same helplessness of the protagonist in the film.

As I walked past catcalls, grimy hands squeezing my shoulder, slut-shaming remarks & asking why I wasn’t dressed and how they wanted to see my private parts, my body did not belong to me.

Like, the victim of domestic abuse where neighbours draw their curtains, I was trapped in a world where men can do as they please with my body and by-passers will mind their own business.

They will tell us it’s our fault, and tell us what to wear, tell us how we should have responded and how stupid we were…

They will, like I was, become desensitised to our pain – seeing it as punishment for being weak or stubborn and say, “Well if only you had listened when we said…”

They will be friendly, they will call themselves feminists, they will be teachers, family, preachers, leaders…they will all love us.

But they will all remain trapped in a system that condemns & shames the victims and does everything else before changing their attitude towards the perpetrator and the crime.

Still relevant: http://www.thefrisky.com/2014-08-12/7-responses-to-mansplanations-about-street-harassment/

 

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Because millions of men – even some I know – believe that she’s asking for it.

 

My Cry For Woman

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Chimamanda-Adichie

My champion for women’s rights at the moment…

Recently a young woman was gang raped in a university in Nigeria. And the response of many young Nigerians, both male and female, was something along the lines of this: “Yes, rape is wrong. But what is a girl doing in a room with four boys?” Now, if we can forget the horrible inhumanity of that response, these Nigerians have been raised to think of women as inherently guilty. And they’ve been raised to expect so little of men that the idea of men as savage beings with out any control is somehow acceptable. We teach girls shame. “Close your legs. Cover yourself.” We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up — and this is the worst thing we do to girls — they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form. – Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie

Breast Ironing in Cameroon

“We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something.”

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Female Genital Mutilation

“We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something.”

A Female Genital Mutilation victim FGM

Rape- victim blaming

“We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something.”

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Domestic violence victim-blaming

“We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something.”

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But I’ll remember you Anene Booysens, Rayaneh Jabbari and you Leigh Matthews. Nor will I forget you Johannes Kana, Mukesh Singh and Donovan Moodley. I will not forget the pain you caused me. The pain you caused to these women… So we will continue to make a noise about these women’s rights which everyone is tired of.

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Men in New Delhi staging a die-in against the rising gang rapes.

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